October Falls – Syys Review

It’s been a whole whopping ten months since I last reviewed an October Falls release. A Fall of an Epoch was a firestorm of an album that followed the band’s “traditional” sound. A sound that consists of black rasps, razor-sharp guitars, and a drum-heavy bottom end. A sound that the band really started to hone on The Plague of a Coming Age. But as every reviewer in the world points out, October Falls is a two-dimensional beast. If you haven’t gone back to the band’s humble beginnings, you’re missing a hell of a lot. And, not in the sense of the classic black metal of old. No, no. You’ve missed one LP (Marras) and two EPs (Tuoni and Sarastus) of acoustic beauty. There’re more acoustic guitars, pianos, and strings in that handful of songs than all the liquidated Guitar Centers combined. That said, don’t expect grandiosity and orchestral pretentiousness. October Falls‘s acoustic discs sound like a couple of guys with guitars sitting around a campfire. A couple of musicians playing simple music for the moon, for the woods, for themselves. And, as if I couldn’t fall deeper into nostalgia writing this review, October Falls has decided to grace us with their first full-length acoustic record since 2005’s Marras. No vocals, no distortion, no bullshit. This is Syys and it’s folking fantastic.

Like the band’s previous acoustic releases, Syys is difficult to dissect. There’re standout moments in those lush guitars, for sure. But it’s almost futile to compare individual songs. Trust me, that’s not a complaint. When you have a disc like Tuomi, fluidity is key. It doesn’t need to rise or fall, it doesn’t need to experiment or wank. All it needs to do is be. I kid you not when I say that October Falls‘s acoustic ditties are my campfire songs. Cold, quiet nights with a blazing moon beaming through the trees is all I need to experience this music. That’s probably why the band compiled Tuomi, Marras, and Sarastus onto a single disc. Our own Angry Metal Guy reviewed it back in the day and professed Kaarna “a soundtrack for the deep woods, the troll forests, and overgrown paths.” Individually, each record is worth the purchase; together, there’s no question. Yet, of all the band’s acoustic material, it’s Sarastus that hits me the hardest. That EP is and forever will be the pinnacle of the band’s acoustic material. But, Syys threatens to dethrone Sarastus.

With an engrossing theme of nature and the gentle rumble of thunder, Syys begins like most October Falls records: with a Roman numeral. “I” (or “Syys I” for clarification) opens with a passion that reminds me of all the band’s previous acoustic releases. It sucks you in immediately. With thunder cracking, owls hooing, and the sharp plucks of the acoustic guitar, I’m sucked in. When the strings join and the guitars reach into a bouquet of Green Carnations, I’m impatient for nightfall to come. As is with the entire album, the guitars build off one another—adding and emphasizing, with one leading the other through the wooshing trees. When “Syys II” emerges from the cold forest, it substitutes the flute for a slow, methodical cello. Out in the storm-whipped prairie, “Syys II” proves to be one of the more anxious of the record.

But for my money, the best songs are the closing trio, “Syys VI,” “Syys VII,” and “Syys VIII.” After “Syys V” leads the album into a quiet lull, “Syys VI” resurrects it once again. Like the opener, these final tracks bring to mind the beauty of Sarastus. Why I’m drawn to a couple of songs more than others, I can’t tell you. In theory, there’s nothing different about these songs than the others. They’re part of the holistic direction and emotion of Syys, yet their passion soaks into my bones. Flutes, guitars, and strings equally share the center stage of “Syys VI”—its steady ascension leading face-first into its successor. After its gentle introduction, the guitars of “Syys VII” build and play off each other like no other song on the album. It’s the kind of song that has you closing your eyes as the song tethers to your soul and wipes all worry from your heart. Like the opener, I feel a tremendous pull from the likes of Green Carnation, and I’m loving it. After this magical piece, the album closes with the heart-breaking pianos of “Syys VIII.” And, somehow, all is right in the world.

Like I stated before, there’s nothing here you haven’t heard before from October Falls. But I’m not belittling Syys. In actuality, Kaarna would find a perfect place on its back for Syys‘s familiarity. And the fact that it’s physical release comes out on Halloween makes everything even sweeter. There’s no better soundtrack for the Fall and Winter months. Especially for 2020, when everyone could use something more chill. Syys is about as simple as simple gets but, even without vocals, it has a tremendous voice. And, oddly enough, it has a passion as metal as any of the band’s heavier releases.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 13 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Purity Through Fire
Websites: octoberfalls.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/octoberfalls
Release Dates: Digital: 10.23.2020 | Physical: 10.31.2020

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